DIGBY, William, 5th Baron Digby of Geashill [I] (c.1662-1752), of Coleshill, Warws.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1662, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of Kildare, 2nd Baron Digby [I]; bro. of Robert Digby and Simon Digby. educ. privately; Magdalen Coll. Oxf. matric. 16 May 1679, aged 17, BA 1681, DCL 1708. m. lic. 22 May 1686, Lady Jane Noel (d. 10 Sept. 1733), da. of Edward Noel, 1st Earl of Gainsborough, 4s. d.v.p. 8da. suc. bro. 19 Jan. 1686, cos. John Digby, 3rd Earl of Bristol, in Dorset estate 1698.

Offices Held

Dep. lt. Warws. 1688-7, ?1689-96, commr. for assessment 1689-90, j.p. 1690-6, 1700-?d.; gov. St. Bartholomew’s hosp. 1729-d.; member of common council, Georgia 1733.1

Member, Society for Propagation of the Gospel 1701.2


Lord Digby was appointed one of the deputy lieutenants of Warwickshire by the 4th Earl of Northampton, and was the first to sign the letter to Sunderland of 16 Oct. 1688 thanking him for his intention to continue them, but indicating that several militia officers would not serve with those who had not taken the Test. He was returned for Warwick at the general election of 1689, probably, like his brothers before him, with the support of Lord Brooke (Fulke Greville). A Tory, he voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was named to 28 committees, including those to inquire into the authors and advisers of recent grievances, to prepare cases against prisoners of state, to draft the coronation oath, to consider the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and to repeal the Corporations Act. He helped to prepare the addresses thanking the King for his declaration that he would maintain the Church and promising him support for a war with France. He was also appointed to the committee for the toleration bill. As an Irish landowner, he was attainted by the Dublin Parliament, and was naturally concerned about the plight of refugees from that country. He was among those instructed to draft an address asking for permission to inspect the Privy Council records about Irish affairs (3 July). Five days later he was given leave to go into the country for three weeks. But he returned after the recess, and was named to the committees to recommend the Irish nobility and gentry for the royal bounty, and to draft the address seeking to establish the responsibility for the appointment of Commissary Shales. He was added to the committee of elections and privileges on 9 Dec., and appointed to the committee to consider the bill to provide for the security of Protestants in Ireland. He also served on two committees of Warwickshire interest, to provide for the endowment of Astley vicarage and to examine a petition from Birmingham about King Edward VI’s School. His last committee was for the restoration of the university charters.3

Digby was re-elected to the next two Parliaments as a Tory, but, as one of the instigators of the opposition to the Association, he never sat again after 1698. The rest of the long life of ‘the good Lord Digby’ was spent in charitable activities and the encouragement of literature. He made Coleshill a haven for non-jurors, but is perhaps best known as a patron of Pope. ‘A noble specimen of ancient, uncorrupted English virtue’, he died on 29 Nov. 1752, aged 90, and was buried in Sherborne Abbey. He had survived his sons, two of whom sat for Warwickshire as Tories, but his grandsons continued the family parliamentary record.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: A. M. Mimardière


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1686-7, p. 261; SP31/4/131, Warws. RO, QS1/1/16-20, 22-34.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1700-2, p. 358.
  • 3. SP31/4/131, VCH Warws. iv. 52.
  • 4. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 372.